The Curl Whisperer on Humidity

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Hot, humid days are fast approaching, so I asked The Curl Whisperer to give us her expert opinion on how to cope:

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It’s no surprise to find that weather plays a huge role in how our hair behaves on any given day. What most of us don’t know, however, is that humidity has little to do with how our hair acts and responds climate-wise. Believe it or not, there are times when the humidity can reach 100% and your hair will be dry, loose and in desperate need of additional moisture.

Sounds like a huge contradiction, doesn’t it? But for optimum curl behavior, the humidity is the last piece of weather information we need to make informed choices about our curl maintenance routine. Believe it or not, it’s not about the humidity--it's actually all about the dew point.

The dew point is, simply put, the temperature to which the air must be cooled in order for it to reach total moisture saturation and any additional moisture must “leak” out of the air. Unlike humidity, it is the true measure of the amount of moisture in the air. For example: if the current air temperature is 69°F and the dew point is 57°F, condensation (and dew) will form if the air temperature is cooled down to 57°F because the air is then saturated with moisture and can't hold any more.

And that's when the relative humidity reaches 100%. Just because the relative humidity is 100%, however, doesn't automatically mean you'll have a bad hair day. That humidity figure isn't an indication of how much moisture is in the air--how high the dew point is. The higher the dew point, the more moisture is in the air; conversely, the lower the dew point, the less moisture is in the air, because cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air can.

Think of it this way. Imagine a one-cup measure and a 10-gallon jug in front of you. Fill the one-cup measure completely to the top with water, then fill the 10-gallon jug about two-thirds of the way full. Now, the one-cup measure represents 100% humidity because the cup can't hold any more moisture. But so what? If the air temperature is 38°F and the dew point is 38°F, there isn't a lot of moisture in the air. The fact that the humidity is 100% doesn't mean a thing because the cup just doesn't hold that much water in the first place.

Now, the jug is a different story. Let's say the air temperature is 86°F and the dew point is 72°F, relative humidity is 62%. Your first reaction on seeing the 62% humidity might be, "Hmmm, it's not too humid today." I guarantee you if you walk outdoors, however, you are going to feel like you ran right into a wall of wet, humid air. The air is just laden with moisture because the jug is capable of holding so much more of it, and that 72°F dew point tells us so.

What does this mean for us curly girls? It means once you start paying attention to the dew point instead of the relative humidity and observe how your hair reacts during low and high dew point days, you will then start to understand and anticipate how your hair will behave on any given day--and then you will instinctively know how to adjust your curl maintenance routine and product application accordingly.

Which is exactly where every naturally glamorous curly girl wants to be, I think :)

Tiffany Anderson
http://www.livecurlylivefree.com/

If you have a question for Tiffany, shoot me an email at [email protected], using "Tiffany" as the subject line. We'll pick one question per week.

More info on humidity and humectants-- http://www.curlynikki.com/2009/06/curl-whisperer-on-humectants-and.html

The Curl Whisperer on Naked Hair


Relax...the article is still going to be rated 'G', so no worries about sharing it with the kids :)

What, exactly, do I mean by 'naked hair'? When I talk about 'naked hair' to my clients, what I am referring to is hair sans any kind of product: no conditioner, no gel, no curl cream, no pomade, no oil, no nothing. Just your own glorious hair strands, as bare and pristine as the day you were born, and nothing else.

I often have the 'naked hair' conversation with my clients during the course of a client consultation for one reason in particular: there are many girls with curls who are still using products with ingredients I don't consider to be curly-friendly, such as sulfates and non-water soluble silicones. And when I mention my concerns about some of these products to a client, the reaction I sometimes get is, "But I just love how these products make my hair feel! It's so smooth and super shiny."

My next question to my client, then, is, "So how does your 'naked hair' feel? You know, your hair when you don't have any product in it?"

Without exception, the response I receive is, "Oh, it's just terrible. It feels dry and tangled and it's really bad. I can barely get a comb through it in the shower and if I let it dry without any product, it's all frizzy and it's just like straw."

I bet. And I can tell you there is a reason for that.

What we sometimes don't realize (and what product manufacturers certainly don't tell us) is that products loaded with curly-unfriendly ingredients--the products that make your hair feel so 'good'--are also the products that make it feel so 'bad.' When you put a product that is not manufactured for optimal curly hair health onto your strands, the ingredients in it are going to start causing issues like breakage, splitting and dehydration, and you are going to start feeling dry, tangled and unmanageable. The 'good' feeling you get from that product is because the product is disguising the very issues it is causing. It creates a dependency in you that leads you to believe that very product is necessary for your hair health and well-being because, well let's face it, your hair could never be that smooth, healthy and silky without it, now would it?

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

If a product is good for your hair, it will never, ever cause your 'naked hair' to feel anything but moisturized, healthy and strong. A product that is good for your hair will not cause dehydration and frizz, it will not cause you to be tangled and unmanageable, and it will certainly never contribute to hair breakage and hair loss. If your 'naked hair' can't and won't feel good on its own when you are using a particular product, then that product has absolutely no business being in your hair. My 'naked hair' is silky, shiny and strong because I use products with healthy, curly-friendly ingredients that deserve to be in my hair, not products that will destroy the foundation of hair health I have worked so hard to create over the past eight years.

Your 'naked hair' deserves no less either.


Check out the Curl Whisperer's site, HERE.
Submit your hair questions to the Curl Whisperer, by emailing [email protected] Be sure to use 'Curl Whisperer' as the subject line!

The Curl Whisperer on Deep Treatments


Last week, we talked about protein treatments for fine-haired girls with curls: this week, we are taking a look at deep treatments.

Typically, most people refer to "deep treatments" when they are referring to hair preparations that contain heavy moisturizers and emollients, and that usually do not include proteins in their formulations. However, it is important that you check product labels as more and more manufacturers are blurring the lines between "protein treatments" and "deep treatments." A deep treatment chock full of protein will do more harm than good for certain types of hair. For now, when I refer to deep treatments, I am referring to any type of deep conditioning treatment that does not contain protein.

Like protein treatments, deep treatments can be a great part of your maintenance routine, depending on your hair's individual needs. If you have coarse hair and should avoid protein, or if you are medium-textured and need to watch your protein/emollient balance, deep treatments are a good way to restore moisture to your hair when daily conditioning is not doing the trick. Because I color, I do a deep treatment twice per month--once 24 hours after I color, another at the midway point between colorings (at about three weeks), which helps to keep my hair healthy and in great shape. If you do any kind of a chemical process, a monthly or bi-monthly deep treatment can be a good idea.

People with fine hair, however, should be extremely careful since their hair typically needs more protein, not more moisturizers. I seldom recommend deep treatments for any fine-haired client, unless it's an initial series of treatments because she is severely dehydrated and I need to get some moisture back into her hair before we can move forward with restoring her hair health (even protein won't penetrate into fine hair if it is brittle and totally devoid of moisture).

Some individuals have asked me if there is a point when deep treatments (or protein treatments, for that matter) are no longer necessary for maintaining good hair health. I don't think there is a point deep treatments are no longer necessary for most people, since even our very natural environment can dry out our hair, but I believe there can come a time where they no longer need to be routine. If you don't chemically process and if your hair is healthy, you can do a deep treatment at arbitrary times just when you feel a little extra moisture is needed--such as if the weather becomes extremely dry, if you've been sick, etc.

Some salons are now offering expensive steam treatments, claiming the moist air infusion used is more effective than dry heat penetration. The drawback is that they are expensive and can run you anywhere from $50 - $100. In my opinion, the jury is still out on those steam treatments; frankly, I've yet to see where paying $$$ at a salon is more effective than what you can do for yourself at home. Boil a pot of water, remove it from the heat, lean over the pot and hold a towel over your conditioner-saturated head to capture the steam for 5-10 minutes--you'll steam your hair and give yourself a great facial at the same time (throw some mint or rosemary leaves in there for a little aromatherapy while you're at it!).

Properly applied, deep treatments can do wonders in helping to both restore and maintain healthy and dazzling curls.

Submit your hair questions to the Curl Whisperer, by emailing [email protected] Be sure to use 'Curl Whisperer' as the subject line!

Check out the Curl Whisperer's site, HERE.

The Curl Whisperer on Protein Treatments

For porous or damaged hair, protein treatments are often prescribed. But sometimes there is some confusion about the different types and forms of protein. There is keratin, eggs, silk protein, re-constructors, etc. Some products are called "light" protein treatments, while others are labeled "intensive." Just what is the difference in terms of the effect on the hair? And how do you know exactly how much you need?

First of all, any protein that is animal-based or that has the prefix "hydrolyzed" in front of it is a stronger protein; those such as natural "wheat" or "soy" are the proteins that are lighter. "Keratin" is the natural protein from which your hair is made. Your hair's condition and texture is a great baseline to determine how much and what type of protein you need. If you want to add protein simply because you have a fine texture and you need the extra support, a light protein treatment is fine. If, however, you have damage from sun, chlorine or chemical processes, a heavier protein reconstruction will then be necessary for any real effectiveness.

Another question I've been asked in the past about protein treatments: is it true that some protein has molecules small enough to penetrate the hair and be more effective and, if so, what kind of protein is that?

Proteins with smaller molecules are not necessarily more effective than those with larger molecules. While it's true smaller molecules can penetrate into the cortex--or inner layer of the hair--more easily, this really only becomes a consideration when you are effecting a chemical change in the hair, such as with color or texturizing. Proteins with larger molecules may take a slightly longer time to penetrate into the cortex, but they will be just as effective as those with smaller molecules once they get in there.

It is also vitally important you pay attention to your hair's texture when deciding to do a protein treatment. Fine hair is a hair type that typically needs more protein on a regular basis since it is fragile and doesn't have the support and structure of other hair types. If you are fine-haired, incorporating a protein pack or daily light protein into your routine is a good idea.

Not so for coarse hair, however. Coarse hair has so much protein in it naturally, applying any product with protein on top of it can spell disaster--resulting in a strawlike, wicked dry mess. Protein-free deep treatments with a heavy emollient base, which we will address in a future article, are a far more effective treatment type for those with coarse hair!


Submit your hair questions to the Curl Whisperer, by emailing [email protected] Be sure to use 'Curl Whisperer' as the subject line!

Check out the Curl Whisperer's site, HERE.

The Curl Whisperer on Hair Routines


A lot of us have one...an established, rarely-varied, almost-religious hair care routine we use on a regular basis to maintain and style our curly locks. The question has been asked, however: is having a hair routine a must?

I don't think there is any "right" or "wrong" answer to that, frankly; I think that depends on you, your particular hair and your lifestyle. So let's look at the possible reasons to have or to not have one.

If you are like me, having an established hair routine means the difference between sanity and insanity in your daily life. Like many of you, I am a tremendously busy woman: I am a wife and a mother, I work in a salon about 30 hours a week, and I run Live Curly Live Free, which is an almost full-time business, on top of it all. There isn't a whole lot of additional time factored into my day and I don't particularly want to spend the precious few extra minutes I do have fussing with my hair. And, truth be known, as much as I love doing the hair of others, I have very little patience for doing my own. Having an established routine means I only have to spend 10-15 unthinking minutes a day, tops, on making my curls look the best they can be...and that suits me and my busy life just fine.

Also, I find my own particular hair responds best by having some sort of structure in how I wash, condition and apply my products. My curls seem to relax when I use a regular routine, almost as if they have made a silent pact to behave as long as I don't surprise them with anything new. I know how my hair will respond to each step in the process, regardless of weather or season, because I've used that same process so many times before. It's comfortable, familiar ground.

On the other hand, however, there is a lot to be said for changing it up. Some women tell me their curls look better if they don't fall into a set pattern: by switching their products and product application technique frequently, their hair keeps a fresh look they say they can't achieve by using the same routine consistently. Depending on what products you use, making a switch can also help you to avoid build-up issues or prevent your products from losing their effectiveness with long-term use.

Being more varied in your routine additionally leaves you more open to discovering new products or techniques that you might not have otherwise found had you settled into an unchangeable, unvaried routine. Although I stick to my usual routine whenever possible, I do a considerable amount of product and method testing and I can definitely vouch for the fact that I have found more than a few great products and techniques during one of my experiment phases.

Like everything else in our mad, crazy, wonderful world of curly hair, whether or not you have an established hair routine is a very personal choice and one only you can make for yourself. Let your naturally glamorous selves shine by always doing what YOU think is best for you and your own beautiful curls!


Submit your hair questions to the Curl Whisperer, by emailing [email protected] Be sure to use 'Curl Whisperer' as the subject line!

Check out the Curl Whisperer's site, HERE.

The Curl Whisperer on Layers vs. Blunt Cuts


When it comes to trying a new style or haircut, curlies have their reservations. No one wants to make a mistake that will cost them their beautiful locks. One of the questions I hear a lot from fellow curlies is about layering curls. Are you wondering, should I layer my curly hair? Will it work with my texture? Well, here’s my take on it.

Should I Layer My Curly Hair?  
The real question here is do you want to layer your curly hair? If the answer is yes, then do it! Curly hair is incredibly versatile in terms of styles, but some curly girls are convinced a blunt cut is the only option for their curls. I don’t know where this idea came from, but you can absolutely have a layered cut with curls. In fact, a few well-placed layers can stop hair from looking too bottom heavy or boxed. It is important that you clearly communicate with your hair stylist what you are looking for in terms of layers. If you aren’t already, you should be going to a salon or stylist that is experienced in the unique needs of curly hair. Nothing is worse than going in for a new cut or style and coming out looking and feeling your worst because the person doing your hair treated it the same as straight hair. Make sure you use a curly hair expert for the best cut!

Will It Work with My Texture? 
Layers work well with all textures, but they benefit certain textures more than others. For example, if you already have a thicker texture and loads of volume, you may not need layers. The main point of layers is to add volume and body to your hair. The texture matters less than the length when it comes to layers. Generally speaking, the longer your hair, the more layers you can add, but even short hair can benefit from a few layers.

How to Get the Best Cut 
While curly hair is best kept in layers, there are a few issues with the standard way hair is cut into layers that you need to know about first. Wet cuts are performed by a hairdresser using "degrees" or "elevation"; a 90-degree cut, for example, means a subsection of the hair is held out at a 90-degree angle from the head and the section is cut accordingly. As the hairdresser moves around the head, she/he takes a small piece of the previously cut section and joins it to the next section, thereby creating a "guide" to cut the next section, and so on.

The degree the hairdresser chooses to use determines how much of a resulting graduation (or layer) is built into the style; because curls naturally graduate themselves, however, using certain degrees, such as a 90, can result in that triangular shape. Dry cuts are much more precise and avoid a lot of the issues in standard wet layering because the hairdresser can actually see the curls themselves without distortion and can cut them as you wear them.

Because most of us do not have access to a stylist with dry cut experience, though, the following guidelines can help you to work with your stylist to achieve a layered wet cut that avoids many of the usual pitfalls:


- Tell your stylist to give you longer layers, but to keep the angle at 45 degrees and not raise you up to a 90 at any time. Reason: 90-degree angles are very tricky on curly hair and, if she doesn't know what she is doing, you could end up with the dreaded "mushroom" or "triangle" head.

- "Trim" can mean 1/4" or 1/2" or an 1". Be very, very specific about how much she should take off wet; for example, if you have an 8"-12" spring, a 1/2" trim wet can make you look 3"-4" shorter dry. So, be very specific and say, "I would like a xx" trim of my layers and no more than that anywhere since it will be shorter than I want if you do."

- If you have a thin density, it is very, very important that she NOT take the layers up too far. Thin density needs more weight, not less.

- If she can, she needs to keep a solid "base" at the bottom and only start layering an inch or two up from the bottom perimeter. I hate seeing stringy or straggly ends from a cut on curly hair because the layering started too soon.

- With a wet cut on long hair, your shortest pieces should be no higher than about your chin, with the exception of your face frame.

- And RUN FOR YOUR LIFE if anyone comes near you with a razor or thinning shears!

The bottom line is if you want layers, do it. Curly hair is versatile and can rock a ton of cuts and styles. Don’t limit your curls!

Submit your hair questions to the Curl Whisperer, by emailing [email protected] Be sure to use 'Curl Whisperer' as the subject line!

Check out the Curl Whisperer's site, HERE.

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